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Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children First Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0876591567
ISBN-10: 087659156X
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Editorial Reviews


Dig your thumbnail into a dandelion stem. Watch the milky juice ooze out and feel it, sticky, on your fingers. Then thread the next hollow stem through the slit. Making flower wreaths used to be a wonder-filled way to spend a springtime afternoon! First, the gathering of the blossoms, then the task of wreath-making finally the transformation as you and your friends each assume a royal role, flower crowned for the pageant! Today these simple activities that brought children in close contact with their natural world have gone by the wayside. . . .

Now a new activity book designed for classroom use and for families has revived many old-fashioned nature activities and supplied an updated view on the importance of providing opportunities for children to interact with dirt and bugs and wool and plants real things as opposed to Barbie dolls and Ninja Turtle figures. Earthways is devoted primarily to craft ideas based on natural materials that can be frown, gathered, baked, woven, molded, and sometimes used in dramatic play. These crafts are unusual in that they can be shared in the doing and the giving and the eating. They can be enjoyed for the process and the product, which often turns out to be an object of simple beauty. . . .

the organization of this book makes it possible for a teacher or parent to move directly to a particular season to find a variety of activities, each geared to a minimum age level (i.e., age 3 and up). Every seasonal section begins with a short introduction chock-a-block full of ideas rooted in concern for a wide range of environmental issues. Special heading identify projects that "supply missing links,' helping children to make connections (e.g., tomatoes grow on vines, not in cans) and apply the skills they are learning as they garden and work with art materials. Throughout the book, each project is outlined in clear, concise language and illustrated with Donald cook's charming, soft black-and-white drawings that make it easy to follow the instructions.

A particularly noteworthy feature of Earthways is the resource section in the back, which contains useful lists of suppliers of art materials, garden tools, books, and toys. "Green" organizations are listed so that teachers can network their ecological concerns and acquire additional information. . . .

Petrash is Waldorf trained, and readers familiar with the Waldorf School and Rudolf Steiner's philosophy of education will recognize certain gentle components of that system of ideas: a project for sewing felt gnomes; the use of beeswax, watercolors, and carded wool; a preference for wooden toys. A sense of peace and centeredness is fostered throughout the book. . . .

As an introduction to another way of doing things, another way of viewing our world, this is a timely book, because it is solidly grounded in an awareness of the urgent need to do something to reverse the unfortunate results of our rampant materialism. Earthways makes the hopeful statement that one person can make a difference. By raising children with an understanding of the fragile beauty of their surroundings and helping them to assume a joyful responsibility for protecting this precious environment, a teacher, or a parent, can change the world. -- Holistic Education Review

Early childhood author Carol Petrash has gathered more than 100 classroom activities designed to help preschool children grow in what Rachel Carson called "the sense of wonder." The difference from other children's craft books is signaled by the first chapter, which describes setting up an "earth-friendly" home and classroom and breaking the throw-away habit. The activities are organized by season and age groupings (3-plus to 5-plus). Making leaf crowns, nut people, seasonal gardens, drying and roasting pumpkin seeks (after the usual carving) are activities that can help children become creators in rhythm with the Earth in a way deliberately focused away from consumption of purchased materials. A section on creating a more natural outdoor play space in a bare asphalt schoolyard is especially interesting. A find resource for people working with young children. -- Earth Ethics (Washington, D.C.)

Earthways is a treasure trove of developmentally-appropriate, imaginative activities in science, nature and art designed to empower young children to feel a joyous kinship with nature. Organized by seasons, this resource book devotes large sections to various nature crafts and natural toys with which young children can celebrate the gifts of the seasons and experience the rhythms and changes of their world. A sampling of seasonal crafts include wheat weaving and leaf crowns in the fall, star windows and snow scenes in the winter, dish gardens and press flower cards in the spring, and paper birds and walnut boats in the summer. Each craft is well-organized, clearly written, and beautifully enhanced by soft, pastel, pencil drawings. Although many of the hands-on activities and crafts are self-directed, some activities do need adult supervision (building an outdoor bean tepee playhouse using five-foot sticks or bamboo poles, or baking a berry shortcake or cobble). . .

Young children are born with the sense that their natural world is good and beautiful. Earthways provides simple and enjoyable activities for fostering these positive feelings for the earth. By engaging in these suggested activities, young children can increase their sense of natural wonder and learn to treat the earth not as a commodity to exploit and damage but as a cherished gift to love, respect and protect. -- Chicago Metro AEYC Connections

From the Back Cover

Earthways is filled with hands-on nature crafts and seasonal activities to enhance environmental awareness. The activities are carefully written and beautifully illustrated. Children play with the elements of earth, air, and water. They develop a respect for nature, for the earth and for all living creatures. They experience the awe and wonder of the world around them.

Children learn firsthand about their dependence on the earth. They can learn how to take stalks of wheat and turn them into flour for making bread, how to be a creator and not just a consumer by making gifts, how to make butter and grow food (even in the city), and how to make outdoor playhouses.

Seasonal suggestions for creating a more earth-friendly home and classroom are also included, in addition to a comprehensive resource list.

Seasonal activities and crafts include:

Leaf Banners
Wheat Weaving
Leaf Crowns
Nature's People

Caring for the Birds and Squirrels
Star Windows
Snow Scenes
Finger Knitting
Yarn Dolls

Round Wind Wands
Dish Gardens
Butterfly Pop-Up Cards
May Baskets
Pressed Flower Cards

Shooting Star Streamer Balls
Walnut Boats
Parachute People
Paper Birds
Moving Pictures


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 and up
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Gryphon House; First edition (July 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087659156X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0876591567
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By waldorf_curric VINE VOICE on June 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
While this book is chock-full of ideas which any homeschooling family can use, or anyone who spends time with small children for that matter, I think its best fit is for the preschool teacher in a traditional classroom. I bought it after having quite a library of Waldorf books and didn't find it as useful, but after having read through it several times over, I can definitely see its niche -- and it does a tremendous job once you have it in the right slot. If you are already working with children and have decided to gradually transform your classroom into a Waldorf environment, this book is absolutely the one to buy. Combine it with A Child's Seasonal Treasury by Betty Jones and you'll have a Waldorf kindy classroom in a bottle. (Betty Jones includes lots of verses, rhymes, fingerplays, and other movement activities plus art and recipes but doesn't give much of a context for how they are done -- while this book covers mainly handwork projects but gives more help with making the transition. They complement each other perfectly.)

Carol Petrash, a warm and inspiring writer, takes you by the hand at the beginning of Autumn. With ideas for how to gradually transform your classroom environment, she introduces each season and has you start making changes -- first a little in Autumn, then more ideas for Winter, continuing on with new changes in Spring, and so on -- and shares her ideas for "Bringing Nature In" (self-explanatory) and "Supplying the Missing Links" (which focuses on re-establishing connections that children are missing with the natural world, such as how butter is made), both recurring categories throughout the book.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By K. Vollweiler on April 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is such a Wonderful Book! It has Easy and Fun ideas for crafts to do with children! Everything from making a small fairy garden with real grass, to Easter crafts, to interesting Harvest time crafts! We have had this book for a few weeks now, and have enjoyed making three of the projects so far! My seven year old daughter adores sitting and reading this book to get ideas for us to work on together next! We own several craft books...But this one is by far the easiest and most creative for children to use! I love the fact that everything is nature based! A must buy, for nature loving families!
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a homeschooling mother, I'm always looking for simple, easy learning activities that can benefit my children from preschool age to late elementary. Earthways is one of the best books I've seen on this topic. The activities are geared toward younger children (preschool/early elementary), but even my pre-teen enjoys the varied activities.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H. Hawkes on November 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
I just recently got this book, and we love it is much. There are loads of great seasonal craft ideas. All of my kids love this and they range in age from 13 to 6 months. (Ok so the 6 month old doesn't do anything yet... but the other 4 do)
I would recommend this book to every family.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. McCann on October 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Nurture a sense of wonder and curiousity in your child by allowing them to discover nature. I have a 3 1/2 year old and this is the wonderful book to help her discover and explore her world. There are a wide range of natural, fun and simple activites that range from age 2 to age 5. The projects are easy to follow and are clearly illustrated and shown through each season.

Fall activities include: leaf crowns, leaf banners, nature's people, laterns, apple drying, baking apples, wheat to bread, harvesting pumpkins, making corn husk dolls and grating the cobs. Winter activites include: star windows, nutmeg grating, finger knitting, sewing gnomes and yarn dolls. Spring activities include: wing wands, streamers, pinwheels, kites, dish gardens, butterfly mobiles, flower crowns, pressed flower cards, making flower necklaces, butter making, wool preparations and gardening with children. Summer activites include: shooting star streamer balls, butterfly crowns, walnut boats, bark boats, parachute people, paper birds, bean tepee, berry picking, making berry cobbler and basket weaving.

In addition to seasonal activites, Earthways also includes: making children's cloth aprons, creating a seasonal garden or a nature table, recycling, discussion of toys from nature and creating a more natural outdoor play space. There is also a section of various gift and candle making activites.

Aside from being a great introduction to Waldorf, the book offers wonderful activites for the family to create, explore and discover together. Quality family time at it's best.

For parents wanting to learn more, the book has a tremendous resource section of suppliers, organizations and environmental books. There are resoures for teachers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bobbi@ProvidentLivingHomestead on October 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have many books. Lots of them sit on the shelf and come out as needed. This is one that does not even go back on to the shelf. It sits at my computer with a couple of "must haves" and I refer to it several times a week. You will not be disappointed with this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T.D.B.L. on August 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
I love that this book teaches how to do things yourself, from drying apples and churning butter to making your own simple toy ribbon wands and leaf crowns. Rather than having to rely on a store for something new, this book encourages teachers to instruct children on how to do it themselves. Many of the activities use natural materials that could be acquired during a short nature walk.

NB: Check this out at the library, but do not pay the exorbitant price ($100) for a used copy, especially since the author has a similar, reasonably price book in print called Earthwise.Earthwise: Environmental Crafts and Activities with Young Children
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